I met Jasper Project’s Executive Director Cindi Boiter for the first time at Jasper’s Syzygy, an arts event which premiered original plays and poetry about 2017’s solar eclipse. At the time, I knew nothing of Jasper. I was just there to support my playwrighting professor & friend, Jon Tuttle, who enthusiastically introduced me to Cindi after the plays.
Cindi had no reason to think I was anything special, but she welcomed me immediately with open arms, setting up a coffee date and sending me home with some copies of Jasper Magazine. Over coffee shortly after, she introduced me to the basics of Jasper and what the art community in Columbia looked like, encouraging me to send her some of my work. I was so in awe that this person was welcoming me with bright eyes when she barely knew me. As a poet, playwright, and lover of the arts, I wanted to be a part of this world, but as a self-doubting new graduate student in the area, I shied away from it.
Even though I never responded or went to an another arts event in my first year in Cola, Cindi invited me to the many art & literary events Jasper was a part of, and every time, I made mental plans to go, but never did. My first year of grad school, I threw myself into studies, and while I loved my little community of fellow students, I felt something missing. I felt that urge to be part of the arts. When I saw Cindi post a need for interns for the 2018-2019 year, I felt the tug towards it, and messaged her about it. Soon after, Cindi set up a meeting time, and we chatted, and before it even started, the conversation felt like home, and that was it.
It’s hard to actually encapsulate in any amount of words how much I love being a part of Jasper. I can anticipate skeptics saying, “Of course she’s going to say good things about what it means to be a Jasper intern, on the Jasper blog.” And to that, I’d like to give you the phone numbers of anyone in my cohort or family to whom I am constantly raving about Jasper being the best part of my 1,000 jobs. What you get to do for Jasper is unlike what you get to do anywhere else.
The main activity I did upon starting as a Jasper intern was writing articles, which may not sound like the most exciting thing, but the people I have interviewed I have made lasting connections with. I’ve had interviews where the other person and I have ended up sitting at a coffeeshop for three to four hours after the interview because we’ve enjoyed each other’s company so much.
Along these same lines, every event I attended as an intern brought this same opportunity to meet new wonderful people. Each event I participated in, I was inundated with awe at how loving, humble, and talented our artists and creators are. Everyone I met was so excited to not only be part of this community but to bring me into the community.
That’s always how I’ve countered what people have seen as the biggest negative when I tell them about being an intern – not being paid. It’s true. I’ve never brought home a penny from interning with Jasper, but I’ve never seen that as a negative. No one on the board brings home money; everyone who is part of Jasper does it because they love the arts, because they believe the artists in the Midlands are special and deserve to be noticed. We work for them not for ourselves, and knowing they are seen and loved is enough payment. As an intern, especially, I went in wanting a sense of community and place, and not just as an artist but as a human being. I’ve found that.
There is no price tag on meeting an artist and connecting and quickly becoming friends that meet regularly for coffee or exchange books with each other. There is no price tag on walking into an event and immediately being welcomed by warm smiles and hugs from people who are genuinely excited to have your presence there. There is no price tag on family. I’ve been paid in love to last a lifetime.
That’s why, this internship is not the end for me and Jasper. I have been so lucky to be asked to stay on with Jasper and have chosen to be a part of this community as long as I can. I get to be the Assistant Project Manager for The Supper Table, which became a project close to my heart the moment I heard of it. In the fall, I get to join the Board myself and become even more involved in the process of Jasper. Our new Tiny Gallery Series has become my own baby, and I already am thinking of new projects I’d like to see come to fruition.
Anything else I could say would just be repeating what I’ve been saying, so honestly, just know that I love it here. I love all the little things like writing articles, writing for the magazine, interviewing artists, attending events, running events, etc. But really, I love the community. I love my Jasper family. I love all the people we touch, the people they touch, the tendrils we have that sweep across our world and make a change. I look around at what I’ve been able to do and what I’m able to be a part of, and I’m just humbled and grateful and glad.
I’ll end by saying that if you’ve ever thought about being a part of the Jasper family, I can only encourage it and promise that open arms will be waiting for you, and I’ll be first in line.